Knee joints are a common source of pain for installers, but one that tradespeople shouldn’t be forced to live with. Peter Dumigan, Commercial Manager of the Hultafors Group UK, explains how far the technology in protection has come.
Recent surveys have shown just how much plumbers experience problems with their knees. In fact, one study suggested that almost 60% of installers felt they would be forced into early retirement because of the pain they have suffered. Damage ranges from sore or swollen joints, to much worse, and the perennial problem is highly aggravating for many. We believe that prevention is far easier than cure, however, and can be achieved by taking the proper steps to looking after your knees.
The knee is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body, with many different types of injuries that are of particular concern to anyone who puts pressure on them on a daily basis. The most common is probably Bursitis, which is caused by kneeling for long periods of time, or by repetitive knee movements such as crouching down and standing up. Fluid builds up in the bursa – which is the sack of fluid that cushions the knee joints – causing swelling, soreness and stiffness.
So what’s the answer?
Effective knee protection on site is, as you might expect, covered by EU legislation. The EN 14404 Knee Protection Standard deals with the size, force-distribution and penetration-resistance of kneepads.
Type 2, Level 1 protection ensures reliable knee protection for tradespeople in a mobile working environment that involves regular kneeling to perform their job. This protection level is designed to protect the knees in all types of working environments with rough, hard and damp surfaces from small objects and debris up to 1cm.
The Type 2, Level 0 standard designates effective knee protection for trades who need to work on their knees indoors – but only occasionally. This legislation is, therefore, designed to protect knees that often rest on flatter surfaces.
There have been various types of knee guards over the years. Strap-on pads that cut into the back of your knees, foam rubber mats and basic protection. But effective protection really only comes from a knee guard system that has been thoroughly researched, tested and manufactured using materials that perform to the highest standard.
The most effective kneepads have to work efficiently and in tandem with the work trousers they’re used with, staying in precisely the right position to ensure reliable knee protection. That is exactly what you’ll get with a properly designed knee guard positioning system.
Properly designed kneepad pockets should include special seams that allow you to adjust your kneepads into different positions to ensure superior knee protection.
Effective kneepads should also feature a hard-wearing material on the outside edges and softer materials in the centre, in order to combine efficient pressure distribution and protection against sharp and rough objects, with maximum comfort.
The design should feature high sides to prevent your knees from sliding off the kneepads. This approach will also ensure the kneepads remain extremely flexible when you walk, while closing around your knees when you kneel down.
Most workwear manufacturers supply kneepads for their work trousers. They vary in price, quality and effectiveness. For instance, you can now get a pair of rubber kneepads for as little as a few pounds in a UK high street supermarket. It will come as no surprise to most however, that they offer no guarantee of comfort or protection.
The more discerning tradespeople – those particularly concerned with their health and welfare on site – will be more interested in the world’s first ‘active’ kneepads, that are proven to last twice as long as other kneepads and take cutting-edge knee protection to a completely new level. The new D3O materials featured in Snickers’ latest range of kneepads do exactly this, and are designed to protect the trade from continuing to endure discomfort during their daily working routine.
High-tech D3O material
D3O is an active and specially engineered rubbery material comprising intelligent molecules which ‘flow’ with you as you move. Upon shock, they lock together to absorb the impact energy to provide high-frequency protection.
The durable D3O material also features a slow compression rate, ensuring that the kneepads keep their shape during work and over a long period of time.
And, given that knees are not flat, the shape of the pads have an in-built ergonomic, pre-bent design, that ensures the kneepad closes around the user’s knee when working in awkward positions.
So, when you work a lot on your knees, this material will give you by far the best, long lasting knee protection available.